Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Saturday, December 31, 2011

That's all there is: there isn't any more


English: A logo of the band "paradigm Shi...                                       Image via Wikipedia    This year, 2011, proved to be a most extraordinary one for me as an author.

I am sure that those of you who have followed its progress, in one way or another, as reader or author, have realized the changes that have taken place in the industry, this year, right under our noses. What is significant to note is that some of the shift was instigated, supported and promoted by a different set of people, for a change.

Rather than the powerful conglomerates affecting change, it has been the individual author, but much more importantly, the individual reader, to direct the way the publishing world has flowed. Authors on their own cannot - and will never be able to - cause or manoeuvre a paradigm shift the like of which we have witnessed since October 2010. Readers have flocked to the works of independent authors and small publishers like never before. Now, to determine which came first is a chicken / egg dilemma people are deciding for themselves. But something happened to book pricing this year. Something happened to the way readers read. Something happened to WHAT is being read, and something big enough happened to change bottom lines.

More able writers than I have addressed the shift and there are some very good blogs to be read that sum up 2011 in a masterful way.

Here, I am going to put down a few sentences on how my career has shifted, in just twelve or so months. My second novel was launched by BeWrite Books in March. In April and May, I started to independently publish my back list of short story collections, with the latest, Encore, coming out a few weeks ago. This has swelled my available titles to ten. But that's not all. In the middle of the year, BeWrite Books accepted my third novel, Camera Obscura, which will be launched in 2012. And I also released a number of short stories for quick reads at affordable prices.

What this has meant to sales of my titles must be seen to be believed. Royalties cheques from BeWrite have never been this good. Sales on Kindle and Createspace for my indie titles are also amazing. They cannot compare with some of the newsworthy hits and their authors who have made the headlines, but for me, they are nothing short of astounding. Not a day goes by without some sales happening somewhere on Earth. This - until this year - was the stuff of dreams for small-name authors, unagented and without the backing machine of a large corporation.

I end 2011 with much hope, and with wishes of the same for the many authors I have met along the way. Many have helped me to make decisions, and to formulated plans of attack, and without them I would still be floundering. Without naming them individually, they include colleagues on LinkedIn discussion groups, who have argued, advised, tried, tested and reviewed until they were blue in the face. Colleagues on ANZauthors, which comprises authors from the Antipodes with a wealth of experience, from which I benefit every day without fail. Colleagues on the much-maligned Kindle threads, whose humour and good nature showed me how to - and how not to - go about discussing my fiction. Individual bloggers who have interviewed and hosted me and my titles on their sites, introducing me to a host of new fans. Editors who have published me previously, in journals, anthologies and as publishers - they have participated and helped. The marvelous team at BeWrite Books, without whose innovation and far-sightedness, According to Luke and Death in Malta would never have seen the light of day.

I must also mention family, friends and those on my emailing list, who receive my missives and act upon them. They include old colleagues from places where I have taught, authors I have met along the way, academics I have worked with, struggling poets, childhood friends and supportive family members. The friends I have made through my children's schools and hobbies, their teachers... so many came to my signings, launches and bought my books. I do mention Robyn Varpins by name - she is the artist who painted a large number of icons and reverential works for my launch. Without her input, the launch would not have been half the wild success we enjoyed.

I doubt there will be another year like 2011. It's been impossibly hard work. I have written the equivalent of two novels in blogs, posts and comments, but it's been more than worth it. Although I do not measure success by numbers of book sales, it does count that I have never sold so many books before, in just twelve months. It is the stuff authors dream of. But it's over now - in the words of Ludwig Bemelmans, there isn't any more. We are all going to have to devise new ways to keep up with the changes, and new writing to supply the canny readers to whom we owe so much.

Thank you one and all - a last comment, perhaps decribing your year, would be most welcome.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plus ça change ...

Novels in a Polish bookstore                                       Image via WikipediaAlthough things seem to change very rapidly in the publishing arena, little has altered in the reader's world, except the sheer volume of choice.

Examining the statistics seems amazing to those who know little about the machinations of book publishing. Who on earth is going to read all those millions of books? If one were to count the readers in any single country, one would not find enough to consume the enormous numbers of books being created by the day.

One would have to eliminate those too young to read or purchase books. Or those with financial restrictions that do not allow them to buy a cheap children's book. One must eliminate the illiterate. And remove those who simply do not read or buy books. A proportion of the population borrows from the libraries that are still standing. Some have not touched a book since school. Many chuck books out with childhood, like so many highchairs, strollers, nappies and bottles.

Reading is not for everyone. Although literacy levels continue to rise, they have little to do with whether that literacy applies to book purchasing - people read other material. They do not have to read books - there is enough material around that needs deciphering. The amount of reading one has to do in an interactive game, for example, is tantamount to a small novel.

I stood in Big W yesterday - a department store that carries everything, from hammers and nails to chocolate and dinner sets and toasters, shoes and fishing rods. I waited by an enormous dump bin crammed with cheap paperbacks and looked at the book section, crammed mainly with celebrity cookbooks, sporting biographies and bestselling novels by household name authors. The store buzzed with shoppers, but the book department was almost deserted. Already shrunk to a quarter of its previous size, and occupying floor space equivalent to a large lounge room, it was the only quiet spot in the store.

Interesting. I watched browsers (all female), who gravitated without fail to the colourful children's section.

The digital entertainment section buzzed. Dozens walked away with appliances as I watched. I lost count of the eReaders taken off the shelves, and an assistant promptly came to replenish the shelf with Kindles.

I realized that the sales predictions of the industry would apply mainly to online bookstores. Few were making their book purchases as I looked. In the entire shopping complex, two of the bookstores were no more, and the one left was pushed into a corner, and contained only three shoppers when I came up in the lift.

Different from other years? Marginally. I knew what was going on online - I have watched it all year, for a number of years now. Just because readers have shifted where they buy books does not mean they do it any differently. Even the fact that a large number of bought books remain unread stays the same.

The hardworking author might do well to examine what is happening. I leave the conclusion to them - whether they see the changes in quantity of available books - competition - as heartening or depressing depends on their ability to bring their books to the notice of readers, and the ability of their words to retain their attention.

Reading is alive and well - that is not the issue. It's the over supply that makes authors wonder where all this might go in the next five years or so.

What are YOUR predictions?
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Promotions and awards

It pays to promote - creators of some sort of product know that well. Authors find the need to promote their books an understandable task: it is necessary, yet can prove daunting, puzzling and demands a different kind of mindset. Finding like-minded authors, who see promotion the way you like to think of it, is not an easy task either. Sharing successes and woes is necessary in the new game that's opened up to independent authors and those who publish with small presses.

Publicity comes at a price, and that is time and trouble. But when one is unexpectedly awarded with a nomination, apart from the surprise that comes out of the blue, one is flattered, and made to feel glad. The message is getting out, and some are reading my blog almost as soon as it hits the ether. Thank you, Dan Nader, of Avoiding the Stairs - you have surprised and gladdened me with this nomination. I must say I display this bright green badge with pride. And joy. And gratitude.

It could not have come at a better time.

It comes with a set of instructions: I must nominate other blogs, and I must divulge seven things about myself as an author. Hm - not an easy thing to do, since what I know about myself is not exactly riveting or the sort of thing one can put in a blog with impunity. Let's have a try regardless:

1. I have a real knack for wrapping presents. I proved it several times this week.

2. I never wear necklaces - the only thing I hang around my neck are glasses.

3. I am a very slow reader, and rarely read more than a few pages at a time. The right-left eye movement sends me to sleep like nothing else can.

4. Very hot weather is appalling. I'm a cool weather type. Having Christmas in hot weather is not exactly ideal.

5. I love music, and try to include it in my writing. Not always easy, but the effort is worth it. To find out what I like, read my fiction!

6. I used to be a heraldic artist, so I can draw a lion rampant or a griffin couchant in a space smaller than an inch square.

7. I'm the calmest of creatures in a traffic jam, and I can wait a long time for things to arrive in the mail, but I can't wait for release of my forthcoming thriller, Camera Obscura.

Now to nominate five more deserving bloggers for the Versatile award. This is very very difficult, so bear with me while I think. These are places where I read and comment frequently.

Drumroll ...

Pic from
1. Helen V's Imagine Me at Clarion South

2. Mark Hunter's Slightly Off the Mark

3. Stuart Aken's  Daily Word Blogs

4. Mark Nichol's Daily Writing Tips

5. Tom Kepler's Writing Blog

There - that wasn't so hard. Now I must let these guys know. If you know them and already read these blogs, pass on the good news. If you have never heard of them, now's the time - click over to their neck of the woods, and enjoy the read.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Authors and book sales

It would be an unusual author who did not wonder from time to time about their book sales. Some say it's not what they write for, since the satisfaction of putting work 'out there' is all they need. Others produce a few copies for friends and family, and the joy of being read by their small circle is quite enough. A few dread the publicity, or what could happen if fame or notoriety knocked at their door, so they hang back.

English: Book Sales in the UK, 2008: Total Con...Image via WikipediaBut realistically speaking, most authors have some sort of level of interest in how their titles do on the market. Curiosity, eagerness, wishful thinking or a purely commercial mind-set will eventually push an author to harbour the desire to know how a title is doing, as far as sales are concerned. Not reviews. Not favourable comments on blogs. Not letters or emails from distant relatives or friends. No ... sales. Simple numbers of sales as they appear in a column of figures. Or on a pie-chart. Or a graph. They are not interested in global book sales of all the authors in a genre, or all the authors in a given region. They want to know how many books they have sold.

Most independent publishers send out half-yearly royalties statements to their authors. It used to be quarterly, but time and staff restrictions have seen the periods lengthen somewhat. So every six months, authors' eyes travel up and down those columns of figures and seek ... you've guessed it. Numbers of sales. How many copies of any title sold in that six-month period. How many people clicked that button. How many copies Amazon posted off. How many paperbacks in paperbags?
With so many turning to self-publishing (it's also possible these days to write that down without the need for euphemistic synonyms!) the ability to read sales figures almost as soon as the sale takes place has come about. Hold an account with Createspace or Kindle, and you hold the facility to view your figures in real time minus one hour! Oh goody gumdrops. Not.

This convenience, this facility, has the in-built ability to drive you mad. Make an addict of you. Take you from your writing. Sales could become the bane of your life. Arrggh! It used to be submission fever. Agent allergy. Rejection phobia. Now it's figure fatigue. I know some authors who keep a daily eye on what's happening on Amazon, Sony Ebook Store, Smashwords, and a couple of other online retailers. Daily. I know more than just a couple who have a peep many times a day. This can do a number of things to one's self-esteen, one's general morale, and one's schedule. It can completely stifle the will to carry on writing, or it can fill one with such euphoria it's impossible to write another word.

Every second day is a scenario that seems more sane. Let's face it - a sale is a sale. Its record will not fade away if one waits until the morrow. Weekly, too. A weekly peep will still give you a great idea. If an author were to look once a month, even, the figure is sure to gladden.

The temptation to look, however, is enormous. It's more than just an itch or idea. It's a compulsion.

Isn't it?

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